56-106. 55-107. 51-111. The 2011, 2012, and 2013 Houston Astros respectively.
Those three abysmal records are what the Houston Astros have had to stomach these past three seasons. Three seasons of futility, humiliation, and embarrassment. Yet it is also three seasons of the first overall draft pick.
The Astros are still not a playoff team, and are a few years off from being competitive in the extremely tough American League West. Yet this year, with the emergence of young stars such as George Springer, Jose Altuve, and the recently extended and promoted Jonathan Singleton, the Astros are building up a strong young core. This crop of players is truly just a small sample of what potential the Astros possess as far as becoming a powerhouse.
Of course, it will take some time. After the Astros’ NL Pennant in 2005, many things have changed. Attendance has dropped significantly, franchise icons such as Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell retired, and the Astros even switched from the occasionally competitive NL Central to the extremely competitive AL West.
What may make it even harder for Houston to put themselves in the mix is the fact that the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels also appear as rising powers, and the Oakland A’s has proven to many to be the best team in the MLB. With consistent play against the aforementioned three teams, along with the perennially competitive Texas Rangers, the Astros are often slammed with very difficult division play. Yet it’s hard to make an argument against the Astros for being the team with the brightest future.
The Astros, for one, are finally seeing a noticeable change in their performance at the big league level. While they are still 11.5 games out of first place and they have only posted a 24-34 record, they have been able to win seven of their last ten games. It also may be horrible for any other team, but in comparison by Astros standards, a .414 winning percentage is a true victory for the 2014 squad.
Along with Houston, the Minnesota Twins and Chicago Cubs are also expected to be the fast-rising teams throughout the league, but the Astros have proven to be the only team to be aggressive with calling the young, high ceiling stars up to the Major Leagues. The Cubs have shown a large degree of patience with their prospects and the Twins have been battling with injuries with theirs. This minor detail may shorten the length of time it will take for the Astros to emerge.
It will take a while for things to work out for the Astros. But what may even be more relieving is the fact that there’s so much more that Houston has to look forward to. With the futures of stars such as Carlos Correa and Mark Appel far ahead of them, the Astros have successfully built a farm system that is loaded with high ceiling prospects, giving them much more of a chance to succeed in the long term.
It must be frustrating for fans in the Lone Star State to endure this horrible product year after year. In 2014, it is clear that some of that is changing, and while the idea of a Twins-Astros ALCS, or even a Cubs-Astros World Series is far fetched now, it may very well be reality in just a few short years.